In hopes of containing the spread of covid-19, or the coronavirus, state and federal governments are asking people to stay home and avoid public gatherings. Some state and local governments have even closed restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and other public-serving businesses to help stop the spread of the virus. This can be a trying time for anyone in recovery for a number of reasons. First, it suggests that attending 12-Step meetings is probably not a good idea, especially for people over 65 and people who have frequent contact with anyone over 65.
The virus has also closed many church services, which are an important part of many people’s recovery plans, as are other spiritual gatherings like group meditation and yoga classes. It’s also a good idea to stay away from the gym. Staff and other members frequently wipe down seats and benches but rarely disinfect bars. It can also be hard to keep appropriate distance from people who are breathing hard and grunting. In other words, some major components of most recovery plans such as fellowship and exercise will have to be modified in the coming weeks or months. Here are some tips for staying on track with your recovery during quarantine.
The good news is that we have more ways of communicating over long distances than we have at any other time in history. In fact, until a few weeks ago, one of the problems we seemed to hear the most about was that we’re all so socially alienated and we rely too much on social media and texting to stay in touch with friends and family. We’ve lost the ability to connect in person and hold a real conversation. Under the current circumstances, that would seem to be a feature rather than a bug.
However, the fact remains that real-life connection is important for emotional health, and that’s doubly true for anyone recovering from addiction. So what are you to do if you can’t go to meetings? Ideally, your group will have already discussed the possibility of quarantine and have formed a backup plan, such as an online forum. One thing to consider is that it’s very hard to remain anonymous on online platforms like Facebook or Google Hangouts. However, AA does offer virtual meetings via Zoom and other mutual aid programs such as SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and LifeRing also have a large online presence, so you might take this opportunity to give those a try if you’re not already familiar with them.
There are also a number of online communities you might stay in touch with. If you’re part of a sober Facebook group, that might be a good resource–although, again, probably not anonymous. There are several good addiction subreddits that offer both more anonymity and a larger community. These generally have a positive atmosphere and people respond quickly.
Staying active is an important part of every recovery plan. Being quarantined at home is like some strange combination of a holiday and a sick day and you might feel tempted to just sit on the couch watching TV all-day. If anything, exercise is even more important now, since it keeps your immune system strong and helps you cope with the stress of uncertainty.
At the moment, it’s generally considered safe to bike, walk, or run outdoors, assuming there aren’t many people around. There is less risk of contagion in open areas. Just don’t stop and chat with the neighbors, or stay at least 10 feet away if you do.
There are also plenty of ways to get a good workout without even leaving the house. There are bodyweight alternatives to lifting weights. There are even bodyweight HIIT routines that can get your heart pumping without taking up much space. These can be found online or on YouTube. If yoga is more your style, there are also tons of yoga videos on YouTube. Yoga with Adrienne is probably the most popular, but there are plenty of options to suit your taste. It may not be as good as your sweaty Bikram class, but it will keep you active and flexible.
One of the biggest challenges for many people won’t be the inconvenience, per se, but the emotions the pandemic may give rise to. It’s likely that we will all know someone who will be affected by the virus; perhaps we will even get it. The uncertainty is stressful in itself. If you have struggled with anxiety or depression in the past, this is certainly a situation that will get your mind churning.
One way to cope is to use these challenging emotions as a sort of exercise. For example, it’s a good opportunity to practice mindfulness. It’s tempting to try to push away your anxiety about the future, to distract yourself, or tell yourself it will probably be fine but it’s also a serious situation and it’s normal to be apprehensive. Instead of pushing those feelings away, try accepting them and examining them nonjudgmentally. For example, notice where in your body you feel that anxiety–your stomach, perhaps? What thoughts are coming up? Try to notice them without getting caught up. Finally, take some time to consider that a lot of people are probably feeling the same things you are. Concern for others is often a good way to cope with our own anxieties.
While this can be an opportunity to practice coping with challenging emotions, it’s not a good time to be skipping therapy. If you’re seeing a therapist, call and discuss ways of conducting your sessions remotely. Many people have been having their sessions over the phone, on FaceTime, or on Skype. If you’re not currently seeing a therapist but feel like you need one, you can probably find one who will work with you remotely.
Finally, remember that you can still do a lot on your own. As noted above, you can exercise at home. You can also read about addiction and recovery, you can write, you can meditate, you can eat healthy, you can spend quality time with your family, and you can relax in whatever way works for you. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do right now, focus on what you can do. This might even be an opportunity to work on some parts of your recovery that might not otherwise get enough attention.
With any luck, this post will have an incredibly short shelf life but at the moment, no one has any idea when life will get back to normal. In the meantime, we have to do what we can with what we have. With a little ingenuity, that can still be quite a lot. Stay safe, stay connected, and stay on track. At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that long-term recovery requires healing the mind, body, and spirit. Our programs are built on the 12-Step approach and incorporate a diversity of healing practices. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.
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